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Should You Use CBD To Treat Your Dog? The Research Is Encouraging.

But federal laws prevent veterinarians from approving it.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Hemp CBD is a pharmacological treasure trove for pet wellness, with claims that it can help cure seizures, appetite loss, nausea, pain relief, inflammation, skin allergies, osteoarthritis, and anxiety. And the evidence isn't just anecdotal. There are over 100 research papers published to support a promising future for Hemp CBD as a treatment for dogs and other animals. 

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Unfortunately, while CBD holds excellent opportunities to make our dogs lives better, some laws are impeding research. 

Related: What Veterinarians Really Think About CBD For Pets

The big obstacles

The crux of the problem lies in the Schedule 1 classification of marijuana in the federal Controlled Substances Act ("CSA") as a drug "with no currently accepted medical use." Until marijuana legalizes, clinical trials remain scarce, and the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) won't approve the use of CBD. 

Marijuana's illegal status is holding back the cannabis industry from significant growth and breakthrough medical discoveries.

Another obstacle in product safety is the lack of FDA guidelines, even though it has been two years since the 2018 Farm Bill passed, allowing the cultivation of hemp.

The FDA admits in a recent report that the lack of regulation is potentially harmful and dangerous for humans and pets, but CBD products remain in the marketplace, without control. The FDA's random tests of CBD consumer products found alarming discrepancies between label descriptions and the actual product content; THC levels (0.03% legally allowed), CBD potency, and contaminants (metals & pesticides).

The FDA also admits the reports are minimal and do not represent an extensive analysis. Why not? Unacceptable. 

The lack of clinical trials allows products to flood the market with no scientific evidence. In addition, pet owners are self-medicating their dogs without the guidance of their vets. So, what do we do?

Related: The Top 8 CBD Products For Pets On The Market Right Now

What we know

Like humans, dogs (and all animals with a backbone) share the same endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is instrumental in maintaining a healthy balance of the body. The beauty of this discovery is that CBD research breakthroughs for humans will most likely benefit animals and vice versa. 

Many endocannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body, but the most commonly known are CB1 & CB2. Depending on the receptor's location (brain, central nervous system, immune system, organs), cannabidiol (CBD) works by interacting with the receptor to trigger a specific therapeutic effect for the pet. 

Even though scientists have a basic understanding of how the ECS works, more research is needed to find other receptors and unlock its full potential.

The latest science-backed research

Bioavailability. A clinical trial conducted at Colorado State University tested three ways to administer CBD in thirty dogs; CBD-infused oil, microencapsulated oil beads, and CBD-infused transdermal cream. The conclusion found absorbing CBD-infused oil through the mucus membrane of the mouth as the most effective way for pets to ingest CBD.

Arthritis: A recent clinical trial at Baylor College of Medicine shows that CBD treatment significantly improved arthritic pain in dogs and increased activity. A similar study in 2018 at Cornell University made the same claim.

Epilepsy: Treating epilepsy with CBD is showing similar favorable results in epileptic dogs as in humans. A Colorado State University clinical trial found CBD oil reduced the frequency of seizures in 89 percent of epileptic dogs.

Says Valerie Hart, a pet owner whose dog died of complications from epilepsy: “Normy went into status epilepticus where he couldn’t stop seizuring. It was a nightmare. I never felt like we had a handle on it and wish we knew about CBD treatments.”

Cancer: The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine is currently conducting a clinical trial using CBD oil to treat the side effects and pain associated with chemotherapy treatment for Lymphoma in dogs. This specific trial also is examining whether or not the CBD oil will have any effect on the blood concentrations of the chemotherapy drugs used.

It’s no secret that there is a growing interest in the use of hemp products, like CBD, for medical conditions in both people and pets. Since the use of CBD in pets has been poorly studied to date, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, in partnership with a veterinary nutraceutical company saw an opportunity in this area of research. Using a quality controlled hemp-based product in a double-blind placebo-controlled fashion, these canine studies seek to determine the safety and efficacy of CBD products in multiple therapeutic areas. The hope is that this research will provide much-needed answers to the questions surrounding the use of CBD in dogs.

With all this said, our only recourse until the government agencies get their acts together, is to rely on 3rd party lab testing of CBD products to verify their contents and potency. 

But scientists and veterinarians seem optimistic about the multiple potential therapeutic benefits of health conditions in pets with CBD but are still somewhat worried about the unsubstantiated products in the marketplace that could be harmful to dogs.

According to Dr. Zac Pilossoph, a Fear-Free Certified DVM, CAVM, Certified CBD Professional, and Chief Medical Officer for CBD Dog Health, pet owners should consider CBD products that are heavily overseen or influenced by a veterinarian as a safety precaution. Meaning, companies that were founded by a cannabis-educated veterinarian, or that have veterinary medical officers or board members that are vets as integral oversight figures of their companies.

Dr. Pilossoph suggests considering the following quesitons when choosing products to administer to your dog:

1.   What is the CBD concentration or potency? You must take into account a dog's size, weight, age, body composition, and the health condition(s).

2.  Should you administer it topically or orally? For topical products, you should consider the possibility of your dog licking it off. For oral products, you will not get the desired results if the dog spits it out. There is also evidence coming out that only 10 percent of CBD actually gets absorbed when administered orally, so transmucosal and/or transdermal is the most effective administration route being thought of as time goes on.

3.   Is the smell and taste of the product palatable to a dog?

4.   Does the product have a 3rd party lab certificate of analysis for each batch of the final product, and is easily accessible at any time for review?

5.   Is your dog on medication? Although rare in most cases, adding CBD could alter the effects of the “current” drug(s) “they are currently on.

6.   Does the product contain Xylitol. Xylitol, an additive sweetener found in gum and candies, has been shown to be highly toxic for dogs. If ingested accidentally, even in very small amounts. However, some product developers who claim to “make pet products” may be completely unaware of this small but highly important detail.

Dr. Pilossoph hopes the future will someday only include veterinarian formulated products and vets the permission to treat dogs with CBD the right way.